I can remember sitting around the table and my sister-in-law asking everyone for their highs and lows of the day. She wanted to know the high point and the low point of each persons day. It was a great way to connect with each other, to share some important aspects of what happened that day and how you were feeling about it. On Thanksgiving, she would ask each of us to state what we were grateful for that day. She was ahead of her time in terms of understanding the benefits of expressing gratitude.
I’ve read about a gratitude exercise where every day you write down on a slip of paper something for which you are grateful. At the end of the year you can pull out those slips of paper and review them. Right here in My Little Blue Kayak, I have written about gratitude many times, including here and here. It seems that being grateful is all the rage!
I was doing some research on gratitude and over at Harvard Edu I learned that in “positive psychology research, gratitude is strongly and consistently associated with greater happiness. Gratitude helps people feel more positive emotions, relish good experiences, improve their health, deal with adversity, and build strong relationships.”
Looking at gratitude in this manner, how it helps you and your life is only part of the picture.
It is wonderful that feeling grateful can positively affect your life, but what comes next? It can and should be more than just a feeling. If you revel in that feeling for a bit and then contemplate how you can share that feeling with other it can have a much bigger impact on yourself, others and society as a whole.
Can being grateful be contagious?
Think about when one person starts to complain about something and others join in. Pretty soon there is a major gripe session going on and the mood darkens and grows sour. When we join in complaint sessions we tend to spread negative energy.
When we share our feelings of gratitude with others, we spread the feelings of happiness and good health that it generates. We spread positive energy!
When we feel grateful but don’t share that feeling, we don’t allow it to become contagious. We don’t allow it to spread to our family, our friends and our community. The world can use more feelings of gratitude. It can use more kindness. It can use more love.
Don’t Quarantine Gratitude
This week, I did something I have been meaning to do for a long time. I wrote a letter to someone incredibly important to me, to thank her for being such a positive influence on me when I was a teenager. It felt really good to put those words down on paper and it felt even better to know that she will hear my words, she will know that she is appreciated and loved.
My feelings of gratitude toward that person made me feel good, it made me feel connected to my past and to my friend. But sharing that feeling, by expressing it to her has the power to make us both feel good. It is an act of kindness to share positive emotions and experiences.
This is how we make gratitude contagious.
Choose happiness this Thanksgiving season by identifying something or someone you are grateful for. Then find a way to share that feeling with others!
How will you help make gratitude contagious?